TOUKON SOUZOU NEW CHAPTER, 10/8/05
review by Mike Campbell
It’s a wrestling war, with New Japan vs. The World! Zero-1 Max, Lucha Libre, and ex-WWE wrestlers all go head to head with the New Japan contingent. Titles are at stake, and after winning the G-1 in his honor, Chono once again tries to accomplish the impossible in the name of the late, great, Shinya Hashimoto.
Naofumi Yamamoto . . . makes it crystal clear that he doesn’t like Ryouji Sai one bit.
TATSUMI FUJINAMI/OSAMU NISHIMURA vs. RIKI CHOSYU/TOMOHIRO ISHII
When did Ishii become the best worker I haven’t seen enough of? The match itself is rather pedestrian, but Ishii makes it a blast to watch. When someone has the ability to make Nishimura of all people look like he’s starting show a Masanobu Fuchi-like mean streak, they’re doing something right. Chosyu mostly stays on the apron, which is best for everyone involved, but does help make one of my favorite moments of the match. Ishii locks in a Boston crab and Nishimura makes the ropes, only for Chosyu to distract the ref and let Ishii continue to apply pressure. Ishii also gets in a surprising amount of offense for the low man on the totem pole, getting several good near falls, including one from a beautiful German suplex. The finish was technically sound enough, and made enough sense, but wasn’t very exciting to me. Fujinami hit his signature Dragon screw leg whip in Ishii, and Nishimura went for the kill with the figure four, and Chosyu saved. Nishimura pulled him back and went for it again, and this time Fujinami blocked Chosyu, but Ishii made the ropes. So Nishimura pulled him back to the center, Fujinami stood guard, and Ishii finally had to tap. It made sense from all points, but not exactly the most exciting way to cap things off. Nonetheless, a very fun match, and I’m hopeful that this is indicative of what to expect from Ishii matches.
KOJI KANEMOTO/WATARU INOUE vs. TATSUHITO TAKAIWA/YOSHIHITO SASAKI
If you like hate filled junior sprints, this is right up your alley. The opening minutes with Inoue and Sasaki’s exchanges are very fun, it sort of comes off like they’re trying to impress their partners, but the intensity alone makes it work. After Kanemoto thoroughly puts Sasaki in his place, they start teaming up and putting the hurt on Takaiwa. The Z1Max guys start to fight back, and the war is on! As you might expect with Kanemoto and Takaiwa being involved, as fun as they are to watch, the wrestling itself is far from perfect. Kanemoto tries to destroy his own finisher by slapping it on, without any sort of build, not once, but twice. The only thing that makes the moment work is Sasaki reacting like he thought his ankle was about to snap. Takaiwa could also have done without blowing off Koji’s overhead belly to belly.
It’s Wataru who really stood out to me though, I’m convinced he had a death wish going into the match, he had the grapefruits to sandbag Takaiwa when he went for his signature Triple powerbomb, not holding on to him and basically just laying there. Takaiwa hits a vicious powerbomb in the corner, Wataru landing with the back of his head bouncing off the bottom turnbuckle. As great as it was when Sasaki got stuck in the ankle lock and went crazy, it’s Wataru who winds up creating the best moment of the match, pulling out a nice escape of Takaiwa’s powerbomb and then almost seamless applying the Triangle Lancer. He tries to roll it over several times, and winds up rolling Takaiwa into the ropes, and once Takaiwa escapes, he proceeds to thoroughly kill Wataru, hitting him with a big lariat for the win. Kanemoto and Takaiwa’s usual limitations showing up dragged this down a peg or two, but for the most part it’s a fun ride.
TENZAN/IIZUKA/YOSHIE/YAMAMOTO vs. OHTANI/SATO/SAI/KAMIKAZE
Wow. The Zero-1 Max wrestlers really don’t like the New Japan wrestlers very much. This isn’t as overtly hate-filled as the previous match, but the plus side is that it doesn’t have anything as nutty as Kanemoto’s random ankle locks. It starts as expected with the big brawl, and then after a quick session on the mat with Sai and Iizuka, things look a bit like what you’d expect, namely, Yamamoto taking a huge beating. The best exchanges are the Yamamoto/Sai ones, because they’re not only the most competitive looking, but they show such disdain for one another, that you’re begging for them to lock up again (and thankfully they would, several times). But all four of them beat poor Yamamoto senseless, Ohtani slaps the taste out of his mouth, and then nearly scrapes off his face with his boot. Yoshie as the hot tag worked pretty well, it let Yoshie do what he was good at, being fat and throwing his weight around. Yamamoto isn’t the only one on the receiving end of abuse though, surprisingly enough, it’s also Tenzan who winds up in the wrong corner getting pounded on, although not nearly as bad as Yamamoto did.
The Z1 team knew their roles in the match and reacted accordingly, their side of things was mostly the Ohtani show, aside from Sai and Yamamoto going at it, Sato didn’t really do much, and Kamikaze’s only contributions were a breathtaking moonsault, and being the one who got pinned in the end. Ohtani brings nearly all the good offense for his team, with the others being regulated to mostly throwing a bunch of kicks. Ohtani dug out nearly all his trademark stuff, and subbing the springboard dropkick with a missile dropkick off the top, and even hitting Tenzan with a baseball slide while he was in the tree of woe. The finish leaves a little to be desired, there isn’t any real build to it, and it feels tacked on. While Takaiwa finished off Inoue after Inoue tried in vain and came up short, Kamikaze was just left alone with Tenzan and hit with the TTD. With so many wrestlers involved, sure someone could have thought up something a little more creative and interesting. Dull ending aside though, this was another fun match, I’m noticing a nice trend here.
MINORU TANAKA/HIROOKI GOTO © vs. NEGRO CASA/FELINO (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles)
Unless you’re a junior tag title completest, or a hardcore fan of any of the four, there isn’t much reason to go out of your way to see this. It’s not bad, but it’s terribly dull. The Mexicans break out some cool offense, and it’s fun to watch them smack Goto around, but the champions don’t really show up until almost the end. There were a few smart moments provided by the Mexicans, like Felino’s counter to the Minoru Special, specifically him never allowing Minoru to fully apply it. Usually Minoru would get the hold, the opponent would like there and flop around before either getting the ropes or countering, but Felino doesn’t get that far and as a result, he doesn’t disrespect the hold at all.
The really disappointing aspect of this (for me anyway) was Goto, after showing lots of growth in the year 2005 (winning the Young Lion Cup, pinning Kanemoto in the title match, and a respectable showing in BOSJ), you’d expect him to show it here, but it doesn’t happen in a very convincing way to me. Granted, it was Goto who scored the pin over the legend, Casas (it was actually a double pin with Goto pinning Casas and Tanaka pinning Felino), and yes, he took a beating from the Mexicans and kept coming back, but Tanaka made several saves for him, and Tanaka also assisted him wearing down Casas before he pinned him, and it still took his version of the Code Red, and hitting the Jigoku Guruma twice before he could get the win. Again, the match isn’t bad, but it was pretty underwhelming, but that’s also due to only getting about ten minutes.
MANABU NAKANISHI/KENDO KA SHIN vs. MARK JINDRAK/CHARLIE HAAS
All good things must come to an end, you’d think that a match with Haas and Ka Shin working together for most of the match would be a fun affair for fans of the mat game, but in the immortal words of Denis Leary ‘Not this time, pal!’ The match is mostly worked as a brawl with punches and chops galore, and it’s about as far away from ‘fun’ as it can get. There’s no real attempt at storytelling, or reason for anyone to cheer for Team Japan, other than the fact that they’re wrestling foreigners. It’s just a long exhibition of boring brawling, with a few cool moments to keep you excited that something else cool will happen, but never does. Haas hits Nakanishi with quite possibly the worst looking Angle Slam ever, ironic given that Angle would in New Japan only a year and change later. It’s usually fun to watch Ka Shin be the loose cannon in his matches, but he gets one-upped by his partner, when Nakanishi gives Haas the Hercules Cutter and knocks Ka Shin on his keister, but the Hercules Cutter still got the win, so Ka Shin didn’t have much reason to complain.
YUJI NAGATA vs. MATT MORGAN
This shows exactly how far a little storytelling can really go. It’s hopeless to expect anything out of Morgan, but Yuji carries him pretty much by the hand, and they put on a shockingly watchable match. It helps that the David vs. Goliath story was staring them in the face, but they (well, Nagata does) deserve credit for getting all the mileage they can out of it. The only thing Morgan can really do with any degree of competence are various power moves, but the match is structured in such a way that Morgan comes off exactly as he needs to, the unstoppable monster.
Nagata charges at the bell and hacks away on Morgan with kicks, but gets shoved off at his Exploder attempt, and a second attempt gets Nagata choke slammed. Nagata switches gears and tries to take out Morgan’s arm, but Morgan hits a sidewalk slam to counter Nagata’s standing armbreaker. That’s all Morgan is really doing, but Nagata is smart enough with the openings he provides that the match makes maximum progress with minimum effort. Eventually Nagata does hit the suplex, an Exploder (that nearly kills Morgan because he doesn’t know how to take it), and he follows up with his backdrop. That’s when Nagata realizes that suplexes won’t cut the mustard and tries to back at the arm, but runs into a Black Hole Slam, and gets planted with the Mount Morgan Drop (a vertical suplex into Uranage) and pinned. It’s far from a textbook carry job, but considering that this is the same Yuji Nagata that spent most of 2003 and 2004 annoying me with poorly thought out matches, this is more than bit remarkable.
TIGER MASK (IWGP) vs. BLACK TIGER (NWA) (IWGP and NWA Jr. Heavyweight Titles)
The unification stipulation, and the fact that these two fought in the last NJPW Tokyo Dome show make this the one match where there’s zero doubt as the winner. Well that, and Tiger Mask’s long, and mostly uneventful, IWGP Jr. Title reign. My limited viewing of NJPW from 2005 hasn’t had me impressed much with Tiger Mask, and this didn’t do much to change that perception. Romero adds a few nice touches, but it’s mostly Tiger Mask hogging the match, and the finish makes most of the match look like filler. The big thing in their favor was what they demonstrated in the opening moments, being familiar with each other. They have a few opening exchanges, and most of the work is fairly smooth. Of course that’s also to be expected, they’d been paired off since Romero was brought in as Black Tiger, so after all these months they shouldn’t have any problem working together.
As smooth as their work looks, Tiger Mask doesn’t do much to give anyone a reason to cheer for him, or boo for BT. The first big spot of the match, a Tombstone on the ramp, is actually from Tiger Mask, when it would have been the perfect way to allow Romero to take over the match and rally the fans behind Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask follows that up by actually trying to give him another Tombstone, off the apron. Compared to that, BT’s one big spot seems rather tame, a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but instead of dropping Tiger Mask on his knee, he just plants him on the floor. BT goes after the mask a couple of times to try to rile the fans up, but, as is typical for junior matches in this building, the fans don’t really respond, which was actually all the more reason why BT should probably have been given more to do. Tiger Mask more or less puts him through the ringer, and it’s only thanks to a ref bump, low blow, and TTD style Tombstone, that BT gets the win and titles. It makes in the vein of the heel stealing the win, but they could have stood to make the road to the finish a bit more interesting.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI/SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. TOSHIAKI KAWADA/YOJI ANJO
After a bit of a lull in action, the fun little show resumes. This isn’t as good you’d think, because Kawada isn’t in the match very much. Anjo is an absolute blast to watch, he’s such a sniveling bastard, but you can always count on Kawada to not only bring the attitude, but to also make his opponents look good, which seems to be a bit beyond what Anjo can do. Anjo does pull out some impressive looking stuff toward the end, but it makes him look good, and doesn’t do much at all for Tanahashi. The bulk of things is carried by Anjo and Tanahashi, which does make for fun viewing, with Anjo pulling out every heelish thing he can think of (short of low blows) to hurt Tanahashi. It’s a bit reminiscent of the match where Nakamura and Tanahashi won the IWGP Tag Titles. There’s no real goal or focus outside of simply hurting them, and then they come back and win.
As fun as it is to watch Anjo bring the pain, it doesn’t really get the match going anyplace, which is something that Kawada could probably have accomplished, but it does create a really awesome moment. Tanahashi finally tags in Nakamura, and rather than being all Robert Gibson like, he just strolls up to Anjo and dares him to try some of those tactics with him, since Nakamura actually the mat skills to fight back and even turn the tables. Anjo does take the challenge, and sure enough Nakamura ties him up, resulting in Kawada needing to make the save. Kawada sightings are rare here, but he does what he can to try and make a difference. His most notable one is the forearm exchange with Tanahashi, Kawada levels him with vicious forearms, but Tanahashi refuses to go down and starts to return fire, although he’s not even near Kawada’s league.
The plan here was to clearly showcase the IWGP Tag Champions, which is odd since they’d be losing the titles in less than a month, but they’d returned from Mexico and needed to show off what they’d learned there. Again, it’s something that could have been better accomplished with more Kawada, although he does get tied up with a few submissions from Nakamura, but Anjo dominating the match doesn’t allow that to happen. The ending is very similar to the junior tag title match ending. Tanahashi gets the pin, but it comes off in such a way that it doesn’t mean as much as it should have. Anjo had started to finally leave the heel character behind and show off his skills, hitting a Michinoku Driver into a juji-gatame, and a leg submission that I can’t even begin to describe, and both times Nakamura makes the save. Tanahashi surprises him with a Dragon suplex, and loses the pin, needing him to do it again for the win. It wasn’t like Tanahashi really survived the onslaught and fought back and outsmarted Anjo or anything of the sort. He got saved several times, hit his move out of nowhere, and then had to do it again. The fact that Tanahashi pinned Anjo may seem impressive in itself, but the actual execution of it was anything but.
KAZUYUKI FUJITA © vs. MASAHIRO CHONO vs. BROCK LESNAR (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
Plenty of others have already written at great length about how horrible it was to give Brock the IWGP Title. My only comment is that there was only one difference between Fujita and Lesnar. Both were wrestlers who had other agendas that didn’t allow them to spend much time in New Japan, but Lesnar at least had a track record for good performances in the ring, unlike Fujita. You wouldn’t know it from this match however, of course Brock deserves to be cut a little bit of slack, this being his first match in over a year and a half. When Chono is providing all the best moments, you know the match is in trouble. Chono plays the cat and mouse game well, staying out of trouble several times by throwing Lesnar into Fujita and vice versa, and he even wakes the crowd up when he plants Fujita with a Shining Yakuza kicks and slaps on the FTS (inverted STF).
Fujita is the only one who is totally replaceable, the only thing he provided was an extended neck lock on Brock, that went nowhere. Brock shows zero effect of the hold, and at one point even lariats the post and completely blows it off. He’s a bit like Morgan, in that he sticks with the power moves, but at least we know that Brock has more to offer. If nothing else The Verdict (F-5) is given the utmost respect, it puts Fujita totally out of the picture and a minute later it finishes off Chono to give Brock the title. Eight minutes really isn’t enough time for a main event, but with someone as limited as Fujita, broken down as Chono, and ring rusted as Brock, it was probably for the best.
Conclusion: It’s not the worst New Japan show in the Tokyo Dome that I’ve seen (NEXESS 5/2/04 anyone?), it had quite a few fun matches, but it was sorely lacking in a major marquee type of match that delivered in the ring, the closest was the semi-main event, and even that had its issues. I can’t recommend it in good conscience, but it’s certainly not anything to absolutely avoid at all costs.
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